bonsai odds & ends – trumpet vine, yaupon, spekboom

Sneak Peek

For those of you interested in vines for bonsai, here are a couple. Plus a Yaupon and another Spekboom in the works.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Trumpet Vine, Yaupon, Spekboom

Last year I pulled up some Trumpet vines from an area of ground I was leveling. Like most vines, they are tough to kill and grow rampantly. But the big question is, why isn’t the species grown as bonsai? I’ve fooled around with them for years, and they seem to do all right in pot culture. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect them to flower in a pot, but I can’t imagine that it’s impossible. Regardless, it appears I’m the only person in the U.S. who grows Trumpet vine as bonsai. That must mean it’s a real challenge, so that makes it hard to resist.

This specimen is one of those I pulled up last year, and recently I decided it was worth potting into a bonsai pot. The trunk movement is hard to beat, and for me it was easy to see a design before it started coming back from all the pruning.




From this photo, taken just a month after the one above, you can probably get an idea of why I wonder that this species isn’t grown more as bonsai. I mean, it’s already got a design and all I have to do is keep it trimmed to maintain it.

Here’s another of the group, which I potted up a couple of weeks after the one above. I love the taper and twisting movement of the trunk – vines do tend to grow without taper, but movement isn’t hard to get. This photo is post-potting, with the foliage that’s left looking all scraggeldy.




True to the resiliency of the species, here’s the next step for this specimen – new little fronds/tendrils pushing from most of the nodes. I started the design of this one last year, once it had recovered from collecting. The primary branches were wired into position, and then I just let them run so they’d thicken up. As with all the vines you’ll ever work with, I had to go in late last summer and cut all those tendrils out of everthing else nearby on the bench. Yes, they do tend to aggressively invade their neighbors’ spaces. “Bad Trumpet vine!”

Yaupon (in this case Ilex vomitoria, our native species) make great bonsai. They grow fast, have naturally small leaves and the evergreen species make a good leafy show on the bench in winter. Here’s one I collected this year, a female (it had berries on it when I dug it). It took a while to recover, but it then grew well enough to allow me to do the initial styling. Next year I should make a lot more headway with it.

Yaupons do root slowly, so remember if you do decide to acquire one that you must treat them accordingly. Following collection, give them at least a year to get established in the growing pot. Never try to go directly to a bonsai pot with a Yaupon – I have done that experiment for you, and it doesn’t work.

You can see that this specimen needs thickening in the leader. Yaupons are not apically dominant, so I can grow out the horizontal branches at the same time I let the leader run. It’ll take about three years, but I should have a very presentable bonsai by then.


How about another Spekboom? This is one I started last year, and I left it alone until recently to grow out enough so I could start a somewhat larger bonsai with it. Today I did some strategic pruning to get the design under way. In 2021, this one is really going to develop nicely.

In this awesome reverse progression you can see where I started with this one a month ago. (The rocks are there to help stabilize the tree.) It has already put on new growth, so today’s editing was a next necessary step.

Let me know what you think of today’s show and tell.